Editorial : Recommendations
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Gyöngy Laky
at Braunstein/Quay Gallery, 
San Francisco, California 
Recommendation by Dewitt Cheng

Continuing through June 11, 2011

Hybridity, fungibility and liminality are buzzwords much in play these days in art criticism, and easy to ridicule. But the idea of cultural artifacts as contingent, arbitrary symbols inhabiting a neutral zone between disciplines makes sense in today\'s art world, an arena of total esthetic freedom. Gyöngy Laky\'s sculptures, words or symbols, grids, and vessels comprised of hundreds of meticulously fastened branches or wires, derive from sculpture, textiles, architecture, engineering, landscaping and semiotics. This breadth may fall within today\'s elastic critical boundaries, but it is their precise, old-fashioned craftsmanship and love of materials that make them memorable. Odilon Redon advised artists to place reality at the service of the invisible; Laky deploys aesthetic perfection in order to demolish categorical thinking and to awaken a sense of wonder - and, occasionally, in her sociopolitically inflected pieces, concern or alarm.

Laky grew up in a cultured, multilingual Hungarian emigré family, and attended UC Berkeley during its glory years in the 1960s. Extensive travel, language study and a long teaching career at UC Davis fed her cosmopolitan, omnivorous curiosity. The title \"Reading Geometries\" denotes her dual interest in symbols and objects, artworks being, at least traditionally, the conjoining of verbal and visual meaning: the transubstantiation of matter. \"Writing on the Wall,\" a grid of 144 ash-wood branches cut into hieroglyph-like forms and painted black, invokes the origins of language in pictures; it\'s an undeciphered Rosetta Stone that may reflect Laky\'s experience with Chinese art, including chauffeuring the eminent calligrapher Zhang Daqian around Monterey in the Sixties.

Other pictographic pieces, laboriously and immaculately assembled thickets of anything from driftwood to plastic toy babies, depict symbols for dollars (\"Ghosting Along\"), Euros (\"The Willing\"), yen (\"Longing for Tomorrow\"), rupees (\"Neo-Rupee\") and renminbi (\"Give and Take\"). Some feature tiny soldiers rampaging through their geopolitical mazes; grammatical symbols like question marks (\"Choking Hazard,\" \"Why,\" and \"Domain Change\") and ampersands (\"Too Much Apple Pie\"); and hortatory mottos in bold, authoritative fonts (LEARN in \"If Not Now, When?\" and BUILD in \"Housing Starts\"). Laky\'s wall-mounted grids are fabricated from slim branches pierced with nails, from a distance giving them the appearance of sprouting; but close up, a more threatening aspect: there are even hidden words embodied within the simultaneously archaic and modernist geometry (e.g., NATIVE in \"Be Longing\"). Laky\'s vessel forms (\"Natura Facit Saltum,\" \"Shifting Currents\") are similarly ambivalent and ambiguous. Bowls and urns are assembled from pointed, bias-cut branches that recall military fortifications - only done up in tropical fruit colors.

Braunstein/Quay Gallery

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